Mark Bromley
Mark Bromley
Old Bedalian 1999

When people think about the careers and professions of Old Bedalians, their thoughts tend to run towards the arts and crafts, perhaps towards media or journalism. The commercial world is not always top of mind and yet there are a number of OBs who have not only thrived in that arena but ascribe to the lessons that they learned at Bedales many of the seeds of their subsequent success.

Such a case is Mark Bromley, who takes us through his life in procurement at home and abroad after leaving Bedales and looks back fondly on school days that were filled with a competitive ethos, a great deal of sport and an environment in which encouragement to succeed in any field was ever-present.

His father was a diplomat and for the formative years of his life, Mark Bromley became accustomed to adapting to very different environments at more or less regular intervals. “I was born in the UK but then we moved to Norway when I was two, to Dubai a couple of years later and then to Malawi when I was around seven,” he explains. “That kind of travelling life wasn’t the best for a settled education and my parents recognised the need to find a good boarding school back in England for my brother and me.”

The family choice fell on Bedales. “I think that my parents just loved the ethos of the place,” says Mark. “It was something different, a mixture of all kinds of people, and although I was initially taken aback by sharing space with so many other kids, some of whom were quite home-sick in the early days, I never looked back after the first couple of weeks.”

“Adapting quickly had never been a problem for me,” Mark continues. “I had obviously travelled a fair bit by then, which had given me a degree of openness to other people, and I embraced the new challenge. Bedales is very much about extending a family feeling, I always felt a natural part of that and I was quickly able to build new relationships. When you have a place with such supportive teachers and so many people who shared the same kind of overseas-based background that I had, it was comparatively easy for me.”

At school, Mark found his extra-curricular activities to be chiefly occupied by sport. “I wasn’t the most artistic person,” he cheerfully admits. “There were a couple of shining drama stars among my contemporaries but while I gave both art and drama a go, I excelled at neither. On the other hand, I absolutely loved sport and the feeling of being a part of the team, which Bedales was very good at emphasising. We were an extremely competitive bunch, both within the group and against other school opposition, and as I remember, our win/loss ratio across most sports was pretty good at the time. I have fond memories of always being outdoors at the weekends, sometimes doing the odd bit of outdoor work, but mostly playing matches and not being ashamed of the fact that we wanted to win them! I knew where my strengths lay and one of the great things about Bedales was that wherever that happened to be, you were encouraged to go and make the most of those strengths.”

It is unsurprising that Mark cites sports teacher Chris Howarth as one of his major influences from his time at school. Inside the classroom, however, there were others. “Philip Parsons, who was my housemaster, would be one, Ruth Hatcher, our Spanish teacher, was another, but I would say that Colin Prowse had as much of an effect on me as anyone,” Mark reflects. “He was great at engaging us – both funny and serious as appropriate – and always transparently honest with his students. Like almost every teacher at Bedales, he was so supportive of all of us and he was a major reason why I seriously considered a geography course at university.”

In the event, Mark chose to study for a degree in International Relations at London Guildhall University. “I hadn’t a clue about life after Bedales,” he confesses. “Those years between 11 and 18 were some of the best of my life and I wasn’t really ready for life away from school. The future was exciting in one way, of course it was, but it was also a bit scary and there was sadness at leaving behind everything I had come to know so well.”

“Careers-wise, I had taken one test which suggested I would make a good green-keeper at a golf course!” Mark further remembers. “That wasn’t especially helpful and with Dad being a diplomat, I thought about following in his footsteps, which explains my choice of degree. In hindsight, I would probably have gone to a more authentically campus-based university if I had my time again – I moved into digs with other OBs after my first year – but I realised after graduating that the diplomatic service wasn’t going to be my true path.”

Mark certainly explored a few options while he was still at university, working as a TV and film extra, including an appearance in a Bollywood movie, helping to sell electronic scooters as a marketing assistant (“a very niche market back then”) and acting as an events and promotions organiser, an experience which led him to consider the world of sports events as another potential career choice.

“In the end, when I graduated, I just wanted to get started with a job somewhere in the commercial world,” says Mark. “I was, and am, ambitious and driven and when a position came up at American Express as a procurement analyst, I was immediately attracted, both by the brand and the prospect of delivering on projects in a business context. Somehow I had found the environment that really matched up with my personality. I was able to challenge myself professionally for the first time in a world that not many of my friends from Bedales tended to go for.”

Having been based in Brighton while he was at Amex, Mark was ultimately eager to return to London. A position as a Sourcing Manager with Network Rail allowed him to re-locate to the capital but some three years later, he was on his way to Singapore, this time with Barclays Investment Bank, for a seminal period in his life.

“Barclays Capital had a big presence in New York, which is where I almost ended up, but for one reason or another, they stopped sending people out there on secondment for a while and offered me Singapore instead,” says Mark. “Dad was particularly definite that it was an opportunity that I should take and as it turned out, I absolutely loved Singapore. In the first place, I met Wendy, my partner, out there, but the whole society that I found in Singapore was so mixed and so interesting. I became Head of Transactional Sourcing while I was out there, travelled around quite a lot of Asia and in all honesty, I could easily have stayed if it weren’t for the fact that Wendy was keen to see what living in London was like. One day, it’s quite possible that we might return.”

Five years after departing for Asia, Mark was back in London as Global Sourcing Manager with Barclays but a year later, he was on his way to Mastercard, where he is now Director of Sourcing and Supplier Management. “We’ve just had our first child, Noah, so home life is busy but wonderful and on the work front, I still feel the ambition to see how successful I can be in my world,” Mark reveals. “The top of the profession in this case would be Chief Procurement Officer and I’d like to think that I would have a shot at that a few years down the line.”

It’s a world that is not always associated with Old Bedalians, perhaps, and yet Mark is adamant that his professional achievements owe a great deal to his school days. “The man that I am was undoubtedly built on Bedalian foundations,” he says. “So many milestones come to me from my time there and it was the place that taught me and encouraged me to persevere with things, to grow up and to step up. That’s where I learned my life lessons, for sure and I often think back to the place that instilled them in me. Bedales wasn’t a corporate place in any sense, so my 18 year-old self might have been slightly surprised by what I’ve gone on to do with my life. He’d have probably imagined that I would be doing something in the world of sport!”

And would Mark be keen for young Noah to follow in his footsteps through Bedales? “Who knows where he will end up?” Mark laughs. “I will say, though, that I would love it if that’s what happened. It would be great to think that Noah might be lucky enough to have the opportunities that I did, that he might experience everything that the school did for me and that he would embrace all the things that make it such a special place.”

Mark Bromley was interviewed by James Fairweather in 2020.